Our 2014 rankings of the top fashion design schools in the South.
We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Fashion Design.
A Minor in Fashion Design is also on the menu as well as BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Accessory Design, Fibers, and Jewelry. Other offerings include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Illustration, an MA in Illustration Design, and a Minor in Accessory Design. Fashion programs are available at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses.
Fashion program highlights include the SCAD partnership with ELLE Magazine & Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in NYC. This partnership gives students the opportunity to participate in the biggest fashion event of the year. Many SCAD students have been chosen for mentoring by renowned designers such as Zac Posen, Catherine Malandrino, and Chris Benz, and all programs offer internship opportunities with major designers and companies such as Betsey Johnson, Bergdorf Goodman, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, BCBG, Juicy Couture, Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, and many others.
Finally, SCAD has one of the highest graduate employment rates in the country. Around 91 percent of alumni respondents reported being employed, pursuing further education or both within nine months of graduation.
Established in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) houses 9 schools, offering more than 40 majors, 60+ minors, and 7 degree types. SCAD is home to more than 11,000 students across campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.
2. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
The Auburn University College of Consumer and Design Sciences is home the AU Fashion Program. Offerings include a BS in Apparel Merchandising, Design, and Production Management (BS-AMDP), a Master of Science in Consumer and Design Sciences Apparel and Interiors (MS-CADS), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Consumer and Design Sciences (PhD-CADS).
Focus areas for the BS-AMDP include Apparel Design and Production Management, and Apparel Merchandising.
Program highlights include Study Tours to Atlanta, New York and other cities and speaking events that feature professionals from the textile, apparel, and retailing fields. According to Auburn, speakers include corporate CEO’s, internationally recognized designers, product developers, store managers, merchandisers, and industry representatives. In addition, all Apparel and Design programs include a ten-week professional internship during the final year of study.
Fashion and Interior Design students also have access to the Joseph S. Bruno - Auburn Abroad in Italy program. This semester-long program is based in the small town of Ariccia, Italy located in the Alban Hills near Rome. AU Study Abroad opportunities give students “a global perspective on international trade laws, fashion trends, and the impact of culture and economics on consumer preferences,” according to AU.
Auburn University (AU or Auburn) was established in 1856 as East Alabama Male College. In 1872, the College became the first land-grant college in the South and was renamed Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama. The name was changed again to Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1899. It wasn’t until 1960, that the school became known as Auburn University. Today, Auburn University is home to 13 schools and more than 25,000 students, enrolled in over than 140 degree programs.
3. University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina
The University of North-Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG) is home to the Bryan School of Business and Economics. The Bryan School houses the Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS)—home to the Fashion Program at UNCG. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Apparel Product Design, Global Apparel and Related Industry Studies, and Retailing and Consumer Studies. Graduate offerings include a Master of Science (MS) and a PhD in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies.
Because UNC sits halfway between Atlanta and Washington in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, students have access to literally hundreds (if not thousands) of fashion and retail companies. As such, all students will complete a mandatory internship during the final years of study. The Department sponsors many opportunities at textile and apparel companies across the region and the U.S., and opportunities to study in Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and Europe. Past opportunities, both locally and internationally, include Polo Ralph Lauren, Hanesbrands, VF, the International Textile Group, and Kayser-Roth.
Established in 1891, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (UNC Greensboro or UNCG) opened on a 10-acre campus with just 198 students and 15 faculty members. At the time, the school housed 3 departments including Commercial, Domestic Science, and Pedagogy. Today, UNC Greensboro sits on a 210-acre campus that houses 7 academic schools, 2 colleges, a graduate school, and a population of more than 17,000 students. The school offers more than 200 graduate and undergraduate programs.
4. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Established in 1887, North Carolina State University (NC State University of NC State) is the largest university in the state. It is home to more than 34,000 students from all 100 North Carolina counties, 52 states and 119 foreign countries. The campus, which sits on a staggering 21,075 acres, is just minutes from bustling Downtown Raleigh—the city’s source of shopping, culture, entertainment, and more. NC State offers 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 departments.
The College of Textiles offers an impressive 11 programs. Options for aspiring fashion designers include BS degrees in Fashion and Textile Design, Textile Technology, Textile Engineering, and Polymer and Color Chemistry. Fashion designers may also be interested in the Fashion and Textile Management program which offers a unique concentration in Fashion Development and Product Management.
Graduate offerings include a Master of Textiles, and MS degrees in Textiles, Textile Chemistry, and Textile Engineering. Two Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs and several competitive Graduate Certificate programs are also on the menu for designers looking to enhance their education and employment opportunities. Options include a PhD in Fiber and Polymer Science, a PhD in Textile Technology Management, and Certificates in Nonwovens Science and Technology, Consumer Textile Product Design and Development, Textile Brand Management and Marketing, and Textile Supply Chain Management.
North Carolina State University is home to one of the region’s most popular student fashion shows—Art2Wear. The annual fashion showcase gives Design and Fashion students the opportunity to create and present their art + design collections to a broad audience made up peers, professionals in the industry, professors, and more. NC State is also the home of Project Runway contestant (season 12) and College of Design Assistant Professor, Justin LeBlanc.
Please note that The College of Design-Department of Art + Design also offers an impressive collection of programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BA in Art + Design Studio-Fashion and Textile Production Design, a BA in Design Studies, and a BA in Fibers and Surface Design with a Focus in Weaving, Fiber Arts, or Surface Design, and a Master of Art + Design-Fibers and Surface Design. Minors in Art + Design and Design Studies are also on the menu.
5. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana Stata University (LSU) offers several excellent programs for aspiring fashion designers through the LSU College of Agriculture-School of Human Ecology. Programs include BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Textiles, Apparel, & Merchandising. Areas of Concentration for fashion designers include Apparel Design and Textile Science. A Textiles, Apparel, & Merchandising Minor is also on the menu.
All fashion students will have the opportunity to complete an internship at a local company or retailers in New York or Los Angeles. Study Abroad experiences are available as well. Students have their pick of unique destinations such as Ecuador, China, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and many others. Upon completion of the Fashion program, the internship, and an optional Study Abroad experience, students will be prepared to work with textile and apparel manufacturers, retailers, media firms, testing laboratories, or government agencies. Many graduates go on to launch their own lines or open their own studios or boutiques.
Louisiana State University was established in 1853 as the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy. The school, which was originally located near Pineville, Louisiana, now sits on a 2,000-acre campus in the City of Baton Rouge—just a few miles from historic Downtown Baton Rouge and 80 miles from lively New Orleans. Home to more than 29,000 students, LSU offers more than 200 major fields across multiple colleges and schools.
6. University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
The University of Alabama (UA) College of Human Environmental Sciences is home to the bustling Department of Clothing, Textiles & Interior Design. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including BS degrees in Apparel and Textile Design (AT) and Fashion Retailing. Program highlights include access to Fashion Incorporated, a professional organization that offers field trips to major market centers and interaction with professionals in the industry, fashion shows, and internship opportunities at both local and nationwide companies.
Established in 1831, the University of Alabama was the state’s first public college. The school, which sits on a scenic 1,000-acre campus, is home to 34,852 students and more than 350 student organizations. UA offers more than 200 fields of study across more than a dozen colleges and schools including the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS), the Culverhouse College of Commerce, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the College of Human Environmental Sciences—to name a few.
7. Miami International University of Art & Design, Miami, Florida
Miami International University of Art & Design (MIU) offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers seeking entry-level to professional level options in the fashion industry. Offerings include AA degrees in Fashion Design and Accessory Design, and a BFA in Fashion Design. All design students have access to Miami’s thriving fashion scene and campus amenities such as multiple studios, 20 computer labs and classrooms, lecture rooms, a library and media center, an 800 square foot Main Gallery, student lounges, and a top-rated Career Services Department. The Department, which hosts a quarterly job fair, attracts some of the best local, regional, and nationwide companies.
Miami International University of Art & Design (MIU) was established in 1965 as The International Fine Arts College. The school, which houses multiple studios, 20 computer labs and classrooms, lecture rooms, a library and media center, and an 800 square foot Main Gallery, is home to more than 2,000 from over 60 countries. With additional branches in Tampa and Jacksonville, MIU offers several dozen programs in the areas of Design, Media Arts, Culinary Art, and Fashion.
8. O’More College of Design, Franklin, Tennessee
Established in 1970 as O’More School of Design, O’More College of Design is home to around 200 students and it offers BFA degrees in the areas of Fashion Design, Interior Design, Fashion Merchandising, Graphic Design, and Interactive Design. The BFA in Fashion Design is the top choice for aspiring fashion designers looking to design for top-tier design houses, boutiques, or studios. The program is also a top choice for designers on the path to launching their own lines.
Program highlights include the always anticipated Eloise Student Fashion Show, O’More Design Week, internship opportunities, and both domestic and international Travel Opportunities. Past, present and future destinations include Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, and Spain. Students have interned with major designers and companies such as Vera Wang, TJX Companies, Inc. (the brains behind TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and more), VF Imagewear, Otis James, Kay Unger, Christian Siriano, Gustavo Cadile, Esquire Magazine, and Teresa Hays Textile Studio.
9. Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale (AI Fort Lauderdale) offers AS and BS degrees in Fashion Design, and a Fashion Retailing Diploma. Fashion program highlights include access to state of the art software, equipment, and studios, membership in the Fashion Club, the Illustration Club or the Photography Club, quarterly internship and job fairs, and more. Students wishing to enhance their education and career opportunities have several additional options to consider. The BS in Illustration or the AS or BS in Photography are popular second degree options.
Opened in 1968 with Diploma programs in Interior Design, Commercial Art, and Fashion Illustration. Today, the school is home to more than 3,000 students and it offers several dozen AS and BS degrees in Design, Media Arts, Culinary Arts, and Fashion, as well as Diplomas in selected areas. AI Fort Lauderdale is one of the go-to schools for employers seeking fresh talent. In fact, graduates have been hired at prominent companies such as Perry Ellis, Pavlik Design Team, and Patty Daniels Photography.
10. Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia
Georgia Southern University’s (GSU) School of Human Ecology-College of Health and Human Sciences is home to the respected Fashion Merchandising & Apparel Design program. Offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BS in Fashion Merchandising & Apparel with an Emphasis in Apparel Design. Program highlights include participation in field experiences, the GSU Fashion Internship program, and Study Tours to fashion-forward Atlanta and America’s fashion center—New York City.
Students also have the option to enroll in GSU’s Study Abroad program. Past Study Abroad locations include fashion capitals such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid, as well as Scotland, Ireland, and Russia.
Established in 1906, Georgia Southern University (GSU) sits on a 900-acre campus that welcomes more than 19,000 students from every state and 86 nations. The school—just a short 55 miles from artsy Savannah, Georgia, offers more than 100 degree programs, across more than a dozen colleges
11. West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
The West Virginia University (WVU), Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Design is home to the Division of Design & Merchandising. Degree offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) with a Fashion Design Track and an MS in Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM). Students looking to enhance their education and career opportunities might consider the Minor in Fashion Merchandising or Family and Consumer Science. The Minor in Family and Consumer Science offers the opportunity to study Fashion Design, Interior Design, and Merchandising.
Although WVU’s Study Abroad program is not a requirement for Fashion students, (it is for Interior Design students), the College encourages all design students to participate. Disegno Italia is WVU’s signature 4-week, 6-credit, summer program in Milan and Tuscany. Students in their sophomore, junior, or senior year are eligible to apply.
Founded in 1867, West Virginia University (WVU) sits on a 1,456-acre campus in Morgantown, West Virginia—rated the 12th overall “Hottest Small City,” by Inc. The school’s main campus is home to 29,466 students from every state, all 55 West Virginia counties, and 113 nations. The entire WVU System enrolls 32,348 students and it offers 191 degree programs across 17 colleges and schools—including Potomac State College of WVU and WVU Institute of Technology).
12. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University’s (MTSU) Department of Human Sciences offers several excellent programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BS or a Minor in Textiles, Merchandising, & Design (TMD) with an Emphasis in Fashion Design. Program highlights include
internship opportunities with major worldwide brands and local retailers, participation in fashion shows and other fashion events, Study Abroad in China, Egypt, Italy, and Paris, and short Study Tours. Study Tours feature exploration of fashion capitals such as New York, London, and Paris. Tours typically last 5 to 10+ days, depending on the destination and program.
Established in 1911, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) began with a modest 100-acre campus, around 125 students and 19 instructors. Today, MTSU is the oldest and largest public university in the Tennessee Board of Regents System, with a population of 24,000 students, 900+ faculty and more than 1,000 acres in Rutherford County including a 500-acre main campus, an agricultural campus, an aerospace facility at the Murfreesboro Airport, and the Miller Horse Science Center. The school also houses 9 colleges offering 240+ programs across more than 40 departments.
13. Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina
The School of Education, Health & Human Sciences at Meredith College consists of 5 departments, including the Human Environmental Sciences Department—home of the Fashion program. Offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Fashion Merchandising and Design with a Concentration in Design. A Minor in Fashion Design is also on the menu. Program highlights include internship opportunities with top designers, retailers, and publications such as Michael Kors, Vogue Magazine, Ella Moss, and America’s Mart, frequent trips to the Garment District in New York, the Apparel Mart in Atlanta, and the National Fashion Job Fair in Dallas, and Study Abroad experiences in Paris, Italy, the UK, Africa, East Asia, South America, and more.
Recent Meredith graduates hold a variety of positions in the fashion industry. Some have launched their own lines or run their own boutiques or studios. Just a few recent employers include Belk Store Services, Cato Fashions, Bloomingdales New York, Findings Wholesaler and Meg’s Place in Burlington, NC (owner).
Chartered in 1891 as an independent, private women’s college, Meredith College opened with a student body of around 200 women. Today, the school is home to a co-ed population of 1,872 students from 26 states and 40 countries. Situated on a historic 225-acre campus in the heart of Raleigh—around 21 miles from Durham, 68 miles from Greensboro, and 129 miles from Charlotte, Meredith College offers a diverse collection of more than 85 academic programs across 4 schools.
14. Brenau University, Gainesville, Georgia
Brenau University was established in 1878. The school, which sits on a 43-acre campus just 45 miles northeast of Atlanta, has a population of 2,777 students enrolled in more than 100 academic programs. The school also has campuses in Norcross (North Atlanta Campus), Fairburn (South Atlanta Campus), Martinez (Augusta Campus), and Kings Bay (Kings Bay Campus. The main campus in Gainesville houses 4 colleges and a Graduate school.
The College of Fine Arts & Humanities-Art & Design Department offers a BFA and Minor in Fashion Design. Program highlights include internship opportunities at local, regional, and national companies, participation in design events and competitions, and an exciting Study Abroad Program. Although Study Abroad experiences are optional, the Department highly recommends participation. These experiences will help enhance the Fashion Program and career opportunities. Past locations include France, Belgium, China, Spain, the UK, and Greece.